Tokyo, July 27, 2007: Playing in the Athens Olympics was a special moment for Kanako Omura – and qualifying wasn’t bad, either.
Now, at the age of 30, Omura has been given another chance to experience both feelings after being named in Japan’s 14-strong World Grand Prix squad.
“It’s great to be back,” Omura said at a news conference in Tokyo this week.
“I have not been called up to the national team since 2005, so to come back a year before the Olympics in Beijing has given me the challenge to be there again.”
Omura was a member of Japan’s 12 that won the Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Tokyo in 2004 to qualify for the Summer Games for the first time since 1996. In Athens, Japan reached the quarter-finals before losing to the eventual gold medal-winners China.
“I will never forget the moment when we qualified for the Olympics,” added Omura.
“I was so excited, and there was such a strong feeling of togetherness among the team. We all shared in the success – and I hope to experience this again one more time.”
Omura was a wing spiker in those days, but is now listed as a middle blocker – one of six in Japan’s of 14. This means competition for places in the starting six and even the 12 is going to be fierce, but Omura feels her versatility can be her strength.
“Two years ago I played left side, and I was listed as a wing spiker in Athens. I have played left and right, not only as a center player, and I feel this is an advantage for me compared to the other players.”
Omura is one of four players from Premier League champions Hisamitsu Springs in Japan’s 14, and having familiar faces around has helped her settle back into the national team.
As champions of Japan, Hisamitsu Springs played in the recent Asian Club Championship in Vietnam, where their opponents included the champion club of Kazakhstan. By coincidence, Japan’s first opponents in the World Grand Prix are Kazakhstan, at Ariake Colosseum in Tokyo on August 3.
“Although we lost to Kazakhstan in Vietnam, I believe we can beat them at the national team level,” said Omura.
“It will be a tough game, but if we play our best I think we will win this time.”
With her experience, confidence and versatility across the court, no wonder head coach Shoichi Yanagimoto is keen to give Omura another chance.